Hillary Clinton slams crypto exchanges that have not banned Russian users
Former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton thinks crypto exchanges should ban Russian users from their platforms after Putin invaded Ukraine last week, and slammed some exchanges for not doing more to isolate Russia economically.
“I was disappointed to see that some of the so-called crypto exchanges, not all of them, but some of them, are refusing to end transactions with Russia, from some, I don’t know, philosophy of libertarianism or whatever,” Clinton said during a Feb. 28 interview on The Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC.
“In this specific case of Ukraine, I do think that the Treasury Department, I think the Europeans should look hard at how they can prevent the crypto markets from giving an escape hatch to Russia, both governmental and private transactions in and out of Russia,” she added.
The idea of cryptocurrency being an “escape hatch” is a growing concern among Western powers, given that three of the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchanges, Coinbase, Binance, and Kraken, have resisted a blanket-ban on Russian users. With cryptocurrency exchanges still available to Russian civilians and oligarchs alike, the fear is that cryptocurrency could be used for sanctions evasion, which would minimize the financial penalties Western nations are enforcing on Russia following its invasion of Ukraine.
Other Democratic heavyweights share Clinton’s feelings, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who on Wednesday urged the U.S. Treasury Department to ensure the cryptocurrency industry is following the economic sanctions imposed on Russia.
Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong said on Twitter Friday that “we don’t think there’s a high risk of Russian oligarchs using crypto to avoid sanctions. Because it is an open ledger, trying to sneak lots of money through crypto would be more traceable than using U.S. dollars cash, art, gold, or other assets.”
Armstrong added that his cryptocurrency exchange was not going to ban all Russians, because of a belief in the universal right to access financial services, but that Coinbase would comply with the law if there was a legal mandate.
Coinbase did not immediately respond to Fortune’s request for comment.
Clinton’s opinion about crypto exchanges was poked fun at by Kraken CEO Jesse Powell on March 2, who joked that his resistance to cutting off Russian users could mean his life was in danger.
“Just want to say that I’m happy, in good health and absolutely not feeling suicidal at all,” he wrote on Twitter.
Clinton’s remarks on MSNBC are drawing criticism on social media, with users pointing out the perceived unfairness of punishing Russian civilians for the actions of their government.
One user, @ZubyMusic, a rapper and podcaster, said, “Is it right to punish peaceful everyday citizens for the actions of their government? I say no. But if you think otherwise, how far does that go?”
Although comments online were overwhelmingly negative, a handful of users jumped to Clinton’s defense.
One user, @JoeSepH wrote, “Hillary Clinton has been right about everything and people didn’t want to believe her! Listen to her now! She spoke facts that Putin will use crypto currency to bypass sanctions!”
It should be noted that non-crypto sanctions will also dramatically affect average Russian citizens.
Never miss a story: Follow your favorite topics and authors to get a personalized email with the journalism that matters most to you.